Changes in the California Building Code in 2019 & 2020

This article highlights the main 2019 California Building Code (CBC) changes that have gone into effect for the year 2020 under Title 24 standards of real estate industry regulation.

California Building Code Changes: 2019 & 2020

Both major and minor changes to the 2019 California Building Code (CBC) entered into effect on January 1st, 2020. The main aspect of the California State Fire Marshal’s amendments to this year are not considered major by industry insiders. Most SFM occupant requirements from the 2016 CBC are carried forward into the 2019 CBC without significant revision to the terms.

The most significant changes to the California Building Code (CBC) in 2020 are revisions to four minor Chapter Two definitions:


  • Adult Changing Facility
  • Commercial Place of Public Amusement
  • District Agricultural Associations
  • Riser


Other changes were made to the way the term “public housing” is used in CBC and California Energy Commission (CEC) literature; the standards for guest rooms with mobility features; bathing facilities, ramp access, & shower standards; electric vehicle charging stations; & adult changing facilities. These definition changes have industry impact for architects and planners.

See the PDF links below for a full line item list of the legal changes to Title 24 provisions in California. There are also some minor changes to the fire prevention and construction codes.

CBC Changes: Title 24 Energy Conservation Compliance

Energy compliance is one of the main areas where major changes to the California Building Code (CBC) went into effect in 2020. This is primarily due to the State of California’s continued leadership on environmentalism and Green goals in progressive policy implementation.

Some of the main areas of formal legal definitions where the CBC changes were made are:


  • Greenhouse Occupancies
  • IBC-B Labs vs. CBC-L Lab Definitions
  • Laboratory Suite Occupancies
  • Occupied Roofs
  • VB-U Occupancy Greenhouses


For HVAC professionals, the new CBC standards increase the MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) for air filters from 8 to 13. For architects and urban planners, the 2020 changes include new standards for the minimum use of shade trees in industrial parks and other hardscape areas. There are also new regulations from the CEC on the use of solar technology in structural design, such as electricity, voltage regulation, operating systems, & implementation.

CBC Changes: Title 24 Building & Fire Code Compliance

There are numerous minor changes to the Title 24 building and fire code compliance regulations that went into effect for 2020. The following list contains the majority of the new changes identified for technical specifications under the building and fire codes. For a detailed discussion of each CBC change, see this presentation from the organizing committee.

Technical changes to the California Building Code (CBC) for 2020 include:


  • Congregate Living Facilities: R-2, R-3, R-4
  • Accessory Storage Spaces
  • Motor Vehicle Related Occupancies
  • Dorm Cooking Facilities
  • Fire Wall Criteria
  • Vertical Offsets in Podium Buildings
  • Membrane Penetrations at Outside of Shafts


Minor changes in technical specifications under the CBC in 2020 are:


  • FRT Sheathing in Type III Construction
  • Secondary Attachments to Structural Members
  • Vents at balconies
  • Skylights & Weather Stripping


Minor changes in the calculation of technical specifications for industry in 2020 are:


  • Projection Distances for Property Lines


Minor changes to the fire protection regulations under CBC 2020 standards are:


  • Combustible Projections and Balconies
  • Fire Partition Continuity
  • Fireblocks & Drafstops in Combustible Construction
  • Fireproofing for Exterior Walls & Underfloor Protection
  • Wall & Ceiling Finish Test Criteria
  • Laminated Products on Wood Backing 


The goal of all of these changes according to the legal committee is “increased clarity and comprehension” among industry professionals, architects, and engineers in Green values.

California Building Code (CBC): Chapter 10 Definitions

The Chapter 10 definition changes include the architectural design of a means of egress in technical literature and practical industrial usage. The concentrated business use of egresses, along with the means of egress from storied roofs and exit discharge illumination are modified in the CBC for 2020. Other minor changes recognized in the CBC Chapter 10 changes are in the protection of exterior areas of assisted rescue and educational occupancies.

California Building Code (CBC): Chapter 11-A Accessibility

CBC Chapter 11-A Housing Accessibility addresses guest rooms with mobility features and adult changing facilities. This includes new standards for wheelchair-accessible shower and toilet compartments which include transfer-type showers and adult changing tables.

Other minor changes to the California fire code for 2020 under Chapter 11-A governance address industrial engineering standards for flame-retardant siding, roofing, vents, glass, & panels. Contractor businesses may receive special implementation credits for Chapter 11-A compliance in addressing the disability needs of under-served members of the population.

These changes have been implemented by the California Building Standards Commission in 2020 for the purposes of maintaining the energy conservation code and other legal statutes.


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